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If you are searching for informative and helpful information regarding divorce and family law issues in Alabama, you've come to the right place. Mobile and Baldwin County attorney Jim Jeffries provides monthly posting and updates, including informative articles and helpful reviews on current divorce-related news events. Our firm has more than two decades experience in our practice areas and is dedicated to providing excellent service and skilled representation for each of our clients. We also seek to further the education of each of our clients regarding divorce matters, so check back regularly for more information on Alabama Family Law! 

Divorce Preparation: Step 5 – Document & Safeguard Personal Property

The fifth step in our series on preparing for divorce: Document and Safeguard Personal Property.

Inventory and photograph your household furniture, art, jewelry and other items of value. Inventory and photograph the contents of any safe deposit box or family safe your family may own. Also, photocopy any important documents in the safe or safe deposit box (if you did not already do so when collecting the financial records).

It is unfortunate, but often these documents and property will “disappear” once the divorce process starts so get your proof in place now.
Additionally, you may want to consider safeguarding any items of particular value (either monetary or sentimental) which are small in size. I am referring primarily to things like the jewelry your mother passed down to you, your father’s fountain pen, your high school year book, your childhood photo albums, etc. Your spouse may not share your desire to divorce with dignity. Better to safeguard those items that are particularly difficult to replace.

Note that I am not suggesting you empty the house of its contents. That is a sure way to escalate the divorce and guarantee that you will not have a civilized divorce. Things like dvd players, camcorders and laptops can be replaced. Just document those on your inventory and photograph them for proof in the event it is ever needed.

Divorce Preparation: Step 6 – Establish your own credit

We are now on to the sixth step in our series on preparing for divorce. The sixth step is: Make sure you have your own credit established.
If you do not have your own credit history, you should begin the process of establishing it now. Obtain a gas card and a credit card. You will need to have your own credit established after the divorce. And, the sooner you begin the process the better. So, don’t wait until after the divorce. You can start this immediately.

Once you’ve obtained the accounts, you can imrpove your credit by using the cards and then paying them off each month. At this point, it is important that you use these cards only to the degree that you can pay them off each month. Your goal is to establish a favorable credit history, not to run up a bunch of debt.

Divorce Preparation: Step 7 – Assess the Financial Accounts

We continue with our series on steps to take when divorce is imminent. We are on to Step 7 which is Assess the Financial Accounts.
If you’ve completed the prior steps in this series, then you already know what accounts exist and what the balances are. You need to make a decision about what to do with them.

It is an unfortunate reality that one of the first things that some spouses do when they learn/decide a divorce is imminent is to raid the accounts. This is typically done after receiving particularly bad advice from an adversarial lawyer or a well meaning, but poorly informed friend.

In a perfect world neither party would touch the financial accounts except to pay normal household bills until after the divorce is over. However, if this was a perfect world, you would not be reading this blog, and I would be in another line of work because divorce lawyers would be unnecessary.

That being said I do not recommend that you clean out the accounts. Doing so immediately escalates the conflict and stress of divorce. It also will not be well received by the divorce judge.

So, you don’t want to clean out the accounts, but you want to be protected from your spouse cleaning them out. If you have a reasonable fear that your spouse will raid the accounts, the only reasonable solution that I know is to remove one half of the funds from the accounts and put them in a new account in your own name. Do not hide, dispose, or waste the money. Document carefully where every penny is spent because you will likely need to make an accounting of it later in negotiations or at trial. Additionally, you should not do this for the regular checking account out of which the household expenses are paid unless there is a substantial balance in the account over and above the amount needed for paying the current month’s bills. You do not want to take action that would cause checks to bounce.

I don’t make this as a blanket suggestion. If the money can be kept there and neither party remove it, that is preferred. Another option for certain types of accounts is to put a freeze on the account. Obviously that is only practical for accounts that are not regularly needed to pay bills and regular expenses.

Before you decide how to handle your financial accounts, consult with your lawyer. If they are suggesting you go take all of the money out without a good reason, I would seriously reevaluate the whether that lawyer shares your desire for a civilized divorce.

Divorce Preparation: Step 8 – Address the Credit Accounts

We pick up with Step 8 in our series on practical steps to take when a divorce is imminent. Step 8 is Assess how to handle the credit accounts.

If a divorce is imminent you do not want to be liable on any accounts on which your spouse has charging privileges. It is not unheard of for an angry spouse, upon learning of a divorce, to go on a shopping spree. Likewise, some lawyers may advise their clients to take out cash advances on joint cards to provide a cushion while the divorce is pending or to charge a large amount in lawyer’s fees on to joint cards.
You will want to consider canceling such joint accounts or at least reducing the spending limits. If they are an authorized user on charge cards in your name, see what steps the credit card companies require to remove them as an authorized user.

Also consider home equity lines of credit. You may need to consider whether you should close it or restrict access pending the resolution of the divorce.

Whatever you do, do not neglect thinking seriously about how to handle this issue, and discuss it with your lawyer before making a final decision.

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